Silver Linings Payback
What’s Done Is Done. Could This Election Disaster Be a Blessing in Disguise?
On election eve at Independence Hall in my town of Philadelphia, I had a sinking feeling as I watched the tableau of Hillary Clinton on stage with President Obama and Bill Clinton.
This was Hillary’s last closing argument with the electorate: clinging to a lame-duck president and a president from the nineties. Yes, President Obama’s approval rating was in the mid-fifties and well-deserved. Her husband Bill maintained a high approval rating even at the height of his impeachment proceedings. What could go wrong?
In hindsight, I suppose you don’t attach yourself to the past in a change election. Even when Ronald Reagan passed the baton to George H.W. Bush, Reagan spoke through a mouthful of jelly beans, “We are the change.” He knew. Hillary couldn’t make that pivot.
At Independence Hall that night, I felt a vague sense of dread as I realized this would be a close election. But I never dreamed of the unimaginable occurring. The next night, election night, I felt fear and shame. I believe this feeling will be with me for a long time.
First of all, I want to declare that I wish to God that Hillary had won the election. But what’s done is done and now we must look forward. We must realize that, however tightly they try to control him, the new administration’s worst enemy is the president himself.
His thin-skinned impulses and utterances have the potential to do grave damage to the Republican brand. This should bring cheer to progressives who are dreading the unraveling of President Obama’s accomplishments and legacy. It won’t be that easy for conservatives. Remember: Donald Trump is president. The Republican party in now the Party of Trump. For example:
- The alt-right. The people like those in the above photo, many of whom identify with “white nationalists,” are not going away; they now believe they have a mandate to behave badly. Here in South Philadelphia, we’ve already seen two examples of minority victims of property damage with a scrawled Trump signature. The implications of unbridled racism could be dire for the Republicans in the long run. Their demographic high tide is playing Wipe Out: In states such as Arizona, minorities will be a majority by 2022…Georgia is now only 54 percent white and is heading for minority majority status in 2026…Nevada in 2020…Texas, 2022. Tick-tock, Republicans.
- Obamacare. Trump began the old repeal/replace refrain late in his campaign. He might believe he has a mandate, but getting it annulled will be extremely difficult. The real reason the Republican majority in Congress voted over 50 times to repeal Obamacare is that they knew President Obama would veto it. Now the governing party, Republicans are faced with the reality that over 22 million of their constituents would lose their health care. Would they dare to take away health insurance for folks with preexisting conditions? Another reality: Obamacare’s stakeholders–hospitals, health insurance companies and big pharma–are not going to be pleased with big holes in their revenues, and would take it out on the perpetrators by withholding campaign contributions. Repealing Obamacare could be possible if there were a “replace” component. The GOP has worked on that for over three years and has come up empty.
- Climate change. Donald Trump has adopted the Republican orthodoxy of declaring climate change a “hoax.” But this isn’t just about American leadership in the global community. The threat of climate change denial to our national security is already being felt by the soldiers and sailors in Norfolk and the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Rising sea levels, flooding and more frequent natural disasters are a daily fact of life in Norfolk, which happens to be the largest naval base in the world. Gen. Charles F. Wald told the New York Times: “Norfolk is so big, it’s so important to the Navy, it’s important to Virginia for jobs, and it would go.” Trump, the alleged champion of veterans, will face a reckoning here.
- Manufacturing jobs. On the campaign trail, Trump promised a “return of manufacturing jobs,” a promise he may soon regret. The fact is, factory jobs have been returning to the US since around 2010, for reasons that have little to do with the presidency. Trumps’ scapegoat here is China, but China’s manufacturing, its exports and balance of trade have been tumbling since 2012. Symbolically, that was the year that General Electric announced it would build a billion dollar plant in Louisville, KY, reshoring over 4,000 jobs that were destined for China and Mexico. Chinese hourly manufacturing wages have risen 12 percent between 2000-2013, approaching parity with US wages. Other reasons for the American resurgence: transportation costs (and their effect on inventories), the availability of cheap energy like natural gas, and flagrant intellectual property theft worldwide. To keep the momentum going and to really help the left-behind blue collar worker, the US needs to create a substantive jobs retraining program and increased collective bargaining. Those two items are not in the Republican playbook.
2018 and Redistricting
With a few notable exceptions, it is said that the party in power suffers major losses in the next mid-term election. The years 2010 and 2014 are the most recent examples. Also at stake is the end-of-the-decade redistricting, which of course belongs to the party in power at the time.
As previously indicated, Donald Trump will not suddenly become fit to be president. He will say something or do something damaging to his party and brand. Perhaps his hidden business dealing with Russia or other international entanglements will put impeachment in play. We can only hope.
Meanwhile, the US Senate elections of 2018 are, to put it mildly, a difficult stretch for Democrats. Several prominent Democrats in red states are up for reelection. In a worst case scenario involving a President Clinton, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell would have his 60-vote firewall. Many of these Democrats got elected in the anti-Bush wave election in 2006 and were reelected in the Obama presidential year of 2012. They’re in for the fight of their lives:
Jon Tester, Montana
Sherrod Brown, Ohio
Bill Nelson, Florida
Joe Donnelly, Indiana
Debbie Stabenow, Michigan
Claire McCaskill, Missouri
Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota
Joe Manchin, West Virginia
Bob Casey, Pennsylvania
On the other hand, if an impaired Trump presidency leads to a Democratic wave in 2018, the Republican pickings are small but sufficient for a leadership change: Dean Heller (R-NV), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Deb Fischer (R-NB), Bob Corker (TN) and (wouldn’t you love it) Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Let’s remember that most Americans did not vote for Donald Trump. He did not win the popular vote. Exit polling found that 60 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of him.
Let’s also remember the last time a victorious president-elect didn’t win the popular vote. George W. Bush had some initial success after 9/11, but his misadventures in Iraq, Katrina and trickle-down schemes resulted in Democrats taking both the House and Senate in 2006 and the presidency in 2008. If Trump remains who we know he is, he could drag down the entire Republican Party in the next four years. Keep your eyes on the prize: Regaining majorities of state legislatures and control of the congressional redistricting process following the 2020 census. A silver linings payback.
Go to hell, Donald. You are not, nor will you ever be, my president.